Your flight is booked, the hotel is reserved, the suitcase is packed and you’re ready to jet set around the world like everyone else on social media. But did you pack the right credit card?
If you’re thinking of traveling abroad—whether it’s to Europe, South America, Africa or anywhere else—you need to have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. And with premium credit cards constantly trying to outdo each other, your card should also come packed with perks that can make your travel a little less hectic.
There are a ton of great cards on the market from every issuer, including Capital One, American Express, Citibank, Chase and Bank of America. Don’t worry, though, I’ve done the research and found the best credit cards for international travel in 2018. The perks and benefits are different for every card, but rest assured, all of them are no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards.
The Most Flexible Card for International Travel
There are a lot of travel credit cards on the market, but most of them require you to redeem the rewards you earn by transferring them to airline frequent flyer programs or redeeming through specific travel portals.
You can skip all that hassle with the Capital One Venture Miles Rewards card. The miles you earn can be redeemed toward any travel purchase, including any airline, hotel or car rental agency. You won’t be tied down to a few airline partners or restricted by an online travel portal.
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
There are no blackout dates or other restrictions. Just buy what you want and redeem for statement credits toward that purchase.
Every purchase you make on the card will earn 2 miles per dollar, which is a great rate of return. Plus the card comes with a generous 50,000-mile sign-up bonus worth $500 in travel.
The Best Deal in International Travel Cards
Very few credit cards offer great travel benefits without paying a big annual fee. But Bank of America card breaks the rules with their Premier Rewards card, making it one of the best credit cards for international travel.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
- 2x Points on Travel and Dining
- 1.5x Points on All Other Purchases
- 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
- $100 annual airline fee credit
- $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit every 4 years
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
First off, you’ll earn $500 in cash back after signing up and spending $3,000 within the first 90 days. That’s a nice chunk of change you can use toward overseas travel or anything else you want.
Great Earning Potential
The amount of rewards you earn with the Premier Rewards card is tiered based on the amount of assets you keep with Bank of America and/or Merrill Lynch. Platinum Honors members who keep $100k or more earns an astounding 3.5% on all dining and travel purchases and 2.625% everywhere else.
Even the base rates, which you’ll get even if you have no money with Bank of America, are very good. You’ll get 2% back for travel and dining and 1.5% for everything else.
Why the Premier Rewards Card Is Such a Great Value
Now about that annual fee. While the fee on the Premier Rewards card is $95 each year, you also get $100 worth of airline incidental credits annually, essentially earning you $5 every year you have the card.
No other card’s annual fee is completely offset by credits. Add in the high cash back rates and this is one card not to be overlooked.
The Best Card for Lounge Access
The Platinum card from American Express is the OG of premium credit cards and easily one of the best international credit cards on the market. It’s been a favorite of world travelers (including me!) for decades and a status symbol. But while the competition from other banks has increased over the years, this card continues to shine thanks to having the best lounge access of any card out there.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
- 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
- 5x Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
- + Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world
- + Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More
- 60,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline
- Terms Apply
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
- + Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required
Like a lot of premium rewards cards, it comes with a Priority Pass membership, and the Platinum version gets you and two guests unlimited visits at 1,200+ lounges (and airport restaurants) around the world.
In addition, this card gets you access to all Delta SkyClubs whenever you’re flying Delta the same day. However, you’ll have to pay $29 for each companion you bring with you (unless they’re an authorized user).
The Best Lounges: Centurion
It gets even better. Platinum cardholders get access to the renowned Amex Centurion Lounges with up to two guests for free. While there are only nine such lounges, Amex continues to open new locations every year.
These are always the best lounges you can find, with premium food spreads, fully-stocked bars with craft cocktails, showers, spa services and more. All of that is included with your card membership.
Great Sign-Up Bonus, Valuable Credits and More
Right now the Platinum card offers a generous sign-up bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account. While that’s a high spend, Membership Rewards are among the most valuable travel currencies around, and the lounge access with this card is unrivaled.
It also comes with an annual $200 airline fee credit, which can be used to cover checked bags, change fees and more, and $200 in Uber rides every year. A lot more comes with this card, including elite status with various hotel chains and car rental agencies. Check out the details here.
The business version of the Platinum card has an even bigger bonus. You can get up to 100,000 points, but you’ll have to spend $25,000 in three months. If you can do that, it’s a great opportunity. The Business Platinum card has all the same benefits as the personal card except the Uber credit.
The Card That Earns the Most Rewards
We couldn’t put together a best-of list without mentioning the Chase Sapphire Reserve. This is arguably the biggest credit card to be introduced in the last few years and for good reason. It’s also one of the best credit cards for international travel.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- + $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- + Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2018’ by MONEY® Magazine
- + 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- + Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Earn 50K bonus points after you spend
$4,000on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
No matter where you use your card, you’ll earn 3X on all your travel and dining purchases. The card also has a generous $300 travel credit awarded each card member year and primary car rental collision coverage. You won’t get that with many cards.
Big Bonus and Great Booking Rates
Oh, and did we mention it has a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months? These Ultimate Rewards points can be used to book travel at a rate of 1.5 cents each or transferred to 13 valuable partners.
Its $450 annual fee is steep, but with a great earnings structure, an array of transfer partners and free Priority Pass lounge access, the Sapphire Reserve is a solid choice.
Transferable Points and an Annual Fee That Won’t Break the Bank
In my opinion, the Citi Premier card doesn’t get enough accolades. If a $400+ annual fee is too much to swallow, this card is a great alternative. You’ll earn 3X on all travel, 2X on all dining and entertainment, and 1X everywhere else.
Citi Premier Card
- + Earn 3 points on Travel, Including Gas Stations
- + Earn 2 points on Dining Out & Entertainment
- + Earn 1 points on All Other Purchases
- Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- 60,000 Points are redeemable for $750 in airfare on any airline, anytime with no blackout dates when booked through the ThankYou® Travel Center, or $600 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
- No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
- + Points Transfer allows you to transfer points to participating airline loyalty programs
And to get you started, the Premier MasterCard’s sign-up bonus is currently 50,000 ThankYou points worth at least $625 in travel. Add in a $95 annual fee that’s also waived the first year, and you’ve got a card that’s a real contender in the busy credit card arena.
The Best Card for Free Hotel Stays
If you enjoy staying in hotels, the most valuable credit card perk is the Fourth Night Free benefit unique to the Citi Prestige card. You can book a reservation of four nights or more at practically any hotel in the world and receive a credit of one night back. Plus, you’ll earn 3X Citi ThankYou points as well as rewards with the hotel’s loyalty program. This is a huge benefit, making this a great credit card for international travel.
Citi Prestige® Card
- + Earn 5X ThankYou points on Air travel and Restaurants, 3X ThankYou points on Hotels and Cruise Lines, 2X ThankYou points on Entertainment (former cardholders only, through 8/31/19), and 1X ThankYou Point per $1 spent on other purchases.
- + $100 Global Entry fee credit every 5 years
- + $250 air travel credit
- You'll get 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of account opening, equal to at least $500 when redeemed for travel.
- Complimentary 4th Night Stay: Get your fourth night free with no black-out dates if you book four nights in a row through ThankYou.com or your Citi Concierge, and pay using your card, ThankYou points, or a combination of both. Starting September 2019, this perk is capped at two uses per year; uses before that date don’t count toward the cap.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee
Whether you stay at roadside motels, luxury resorts, only vacation once a year or go on a trip every month, you can get serious value out of this single perk—especially at expensive high-end properties.
More Great Perks
Right now there is no sign-up bonus with the Prestige card. Citi seems to offer such bonuses in waves, but the free Priority Pass lounge access, $250 annual airline credit (good toward airfare), 3x points on airfare and hotels, 2X on dining and entertainment and solid travel protections still make this a card that should be high on your wish list. There’s a lot to love!
The Best Business Card for International Travel
A new arrival on the scene, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited has stolen the spot as the best international credit card for small businesses. Its attractive 50,000-point sign-up bonus, easy rewards structure and no annual fee should make every business owner read on.
Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
- + Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business
Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend
$3,000on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
- 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers
- Employee cards at no additional cost
- No Annual Fee
- 3% foreign transaction fee
You’ll earn 1.5X Ultimate Rewards points on every purchase. If you like cash back, that means you’re getting 1.5% back on each purchase, which is excellent for a no-fee business card.
What makes this card really great for international travelers is that you can pair the Ink Business Unlimited with the Chase Ink Business Preferred, Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred. By doing so, your points can be used to book travel directly at a rate of 1.25 to 1.5 cents each (depending on the card) or transferred to one of Chase’s popular travel partners.
Even More Perks!
And it gets better. There’s 0% interest on purchases and balance transfers the first year you have the card, primary collision coverage when renting a car on business, and no charge to add employee cards. What’s not to like?
Anyone Can Qualify for a Business Card
You don’t have to be a business owner to get a business credit card. That’s just a myth. You can qualify if you have any sort of independent income.
Do you sell stuff on eBay? Do you make crafts for Etsy? Maybe you do a little freelancing to supplement your income. All of that counts. So don’t be afraid to apply. Just be honest on your application.
Traveling abroad can be expensive. There’s no need to add another 3% or more to every card purchase in foreign transaction fees. There are a lot of excellent no-foreign-transaction-fee cards—and all of the cards on our list offer that perk.
But every card has its own set of travel benefits and perks, plus cards can cost nothing, $400+ and everywhere in between. The best credit card for international travel will depend on what you want out of the card. Do you want airport lounge access, primary rental car insurance or great reward rates?
While it may be wise to have more than one credit card in your wallet, it’s also best to understand the major benefits of card before signing up so you get the best international travel credit card for you.